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The Sweets Kendamas Buyer's Guide

Table of Contents:

Introduction

You might be looking for your very first kendama, or maybe you’re looking to get a new one after playing your first one to sawdust! You might be wondering what the best choice to make would be, or which kendama is the best one to buy. We understand that in this day and age of kendama, there’s so much to choose from; you could almost get choice overload! You might be asking yourself:

  • What is the best kendama to buy?
  • Why are the prices so varied?
  • What is the best age for kendama?
  • Why are they all kendamas so different?
  • What should I get for my first kendama?
  • I've had one kendama; what should I get next?

In order to help you understand the differences between our different kendamas and to help you make a more informed purchase, we’ve compiled this Buyer’s Guide!

Things To Consider

No matter what we say, you should always choose something that is within your perceived budget and that it has a design you absolutely love. The more you enjoy and/or connect with the design, the more likely you are to play it to your full potential, rather than you not liking it and then becoming a dust collector on a shelf (although we think kendamas look fantastic as an accent decoration piece, too!).

NOTE TO BEGINNERS:

When buying your first kendama, don’t worry too much about the bells and whistles, like the type of paint on the kendama or whether it has a Balance Bevel in the Base Cup. These things, as we explain later, aren’t crucial to learning kendama in the early stages. You can shred just as hard on a $20 kendama as you can on a $50 one!

What’s with all these different prices?

While we do our best to make sure every kendama we make is incredible, some kendamas have certain qualities or features that make them even even more exclusive than some more-accessible options might be. This could be a difference in wood that the kendama consists of, the type of paint on the ball, or even because it’s designed and made for someone, or something, special.

The best age for kendama?

 

Our boxes say ages 7 and up, but in reality, there is no limit to what age is best. We’ve seen players as young as 4, older than 100, and all ages in between. Kendama can be enjoyed by anyone, but if you have a very young child and you want to get them one, make sure to provide supervision. Helping your child learn how a kendama works and what each part is meant for can help them tremendously.

We often find that the younger the person, the quicker and easier it is for them to pick up kendama - much like many other learned skills, like a language or mathematics. That’s not to say that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, however, as kendama can also be used by senior adults in order to promote movement and a healthy lifestyle.

NOTE TO BEGINNERS:

We have dozens of supplemental Tutorial videos on our YouTube channel that teaches you all types of different kendama tricks, from absolute beginner, all the way up to seasoned veteran. Check out our Beginner Playlist HERE.

How big are they?

sizecomp-sample1

All of our kendamas, aside from Sumos and Kaijus, all are the same height - just around 18 centimeters, give or take a millimeter or two. This is a common height among most “standard”-sized kendamas and feels great in most hands, big or small.

Many kendamas will weigh in around the same as one another, but wood isn’t perfectly the same from piece to piece, and often you’ll have some variance between kendamas here and there. Overall though, the weight of a kendama is largely a matter of preference from player to player!

NOTE TO BEGINNERS:

If you are completely new to kendama and are unsure what kind of weight you may be attracted to, try anything at all and don’t worry too much about how much one side weighs vs. the other. The weight of the kendama has little bearing on how easily you can learn new types of tricks. Weight is mostly based on feel. If it's comfortable in your hands while jamming, it's a good weight for you.

The Sumo and the Kaiju are much larger than your typical kendama, meant more for practice and/or the performing kendama player.

 

What Does “Weight Matched” Mean?

Weight Matched means exactly what you might think it would: the weights of both the tama (ball) and the ken (sword) are similar to one another. In a perfect scenario of a weight matched kendama, both pieces weigh exactly the same, but since wood varies from piece to piece in a variety of ways, that can be difficult to achieve.

Players have been asking for years and we are excited to finally announce a Weight Match Guarantee on select new kendama drops! This means that every setup sold with this guarantee will have a tama and a ken that weigh within 7 grams of each other. We cannot promise specific weights, but we can make sure that the kendamas we sell are even more honed than ever before!

Note to beginners:
While a weight matched kendama can be a nice feature and is something that some kendama players seek out, don’t stress too much if your first kendama isn’t specifically “weight matched”. Like we said earlier, the weight of the kendama has little bearing on how easily you can learn new types of tricks. Once you’ve accustomed yourself to your own play style, you’ll begin to feel out what is right for you. Weight is mostly based on feel and is largely a matter of preference. If it's comfortable in your hands while jamming, it's a good weight for you.

The BOOST Shape? What’s that?

The BOOST Shape is, to date, our best, most playable kendama shape we’ve devised yet, modeled and inspired by the Christian Fraser’s first Legend Model, the “Batch Zero”. The name “BOOST” refers to the way we have boosted the proportions of the kendama’s dimensions, creating a new kendama shape that is fantastic for any type of kendama play. This makes landing new tricks easier than ever before.

Our previous shape, the Prime shape, is still available from some retailers, such as Amazon and Target. A kendama with the Prime shape will treat you just as well as one of our BOOST shape kendamas, but at a slightly lower price.

Why does the ken have a hole in the bottom cup?

This is a design feature that is included on all of our BOOST Shape kendamas, called a “Balance Bevel”. The base cup is drilled deeper to remove a little weight from the Sword piece of the Ken in order to make tricks like Lunar much more achievable right away. This is a feature that we added to the BOOST shape because we love the way it helps create an overall better playing experience, and a lot of players all over the world also love this addition to the design.

The Balance Bevel is a feature that won’t affect you in any negative way at all when you start learning kendama. In the beginning, you might not even notice the difference in feeling between one with and one without. The Balance Bevel is a great added feature to the design that can help you learn certain tricks easier, but isn’t totally necessary towards learning any trick. You can do any trick on a kendama with a Balance Bevel that you can on a kendama without one. Some Pro Players on our team even chose NOT to include the Balance Bevel on their models because they don’t think it’s necessary!

You sell packs of string? How come?

SixFinger String - Sample Image

Just like anything else, string can break down over time and even break if worn out entirely. Every kendama we sell comes with an extra string, but sometimes you want a specific color or some spares, just in case. We offer SixFinger String Packs in a variety of colorways for any situation. These are quite a bit longer than kendama strings have been in the past; it’s become much more mainstream in recent years to have a longer string. It makes some tricks much easier, and the string can even be manipulated in some styles of kendama play!

NOTE TO BEGINNERS:
Yes, you can take the kendama apart to put a new string on it! If you ever need a change of style or your string ever wears out and breaks, Here’s a helpful video that shows you how you can change it yourself. It also shows you how both sides of the sarado have a string hole, making it possible to string a kendama for a right handed player or a left handed player!
Check out more of our Tutorial Videos on our YouTube Channel HERE.

What is a Bearing Bead?

Bearing Bead - Sample 1

A Bearing Bead, or “Spinner” Bead, is a metal bearing that comes on all of our kendamas, not including the Radar Series, which come with a plastic bead. The Bearing Bead replaces the Plastic Bead because we’ve found that metal versions allow the ball to spin more freely without the string bunching up and getting twisted over onto itself during play.

Sticky Clear? Cushion Clear? Ratio Clear?

A lot of the kendamas you’ll find out there have not only been painted with different designs and colors, but also have been finished with a clear coat on top of that paint. These clear coats protect the designs and help make the paint last longer, but they are also formulated in such a way that makes the kendama more playable right out of the box, adding a grippy or tacky feeling to the ball, depending on what kind you choose.

Sticky Clear

sticky-closeup

Sticky clear comes on many of our kendamas, has a glossy look, and is tacky to the touch. Having paint on the ball of the kendama makes learning much easier and boosts your consistency. The paint isn’t so sticky that the ball will adhere to anything, but it will provide more stability if you’re learning certain types of tricks. Sticky paint is also extremely accessible, it’s a little less expensive to create than our Cushion Clear options, which makes it perfect for if you’re hunting for an inexpensive birthday present for someone special.

Cushion Clear

cush-closeup

Cushion Clear is our own special formula that we’ve created and tweaked over the years in order to create the best kendama Clear Coat available. We wanted to create a paint that played like a “broken in” kendama, one that you’ve already played to the point where it plays extremely well. We Cushion Clear our own kendamas in house at our shop’s Paint Booth, also known as the “Sweets Lab”. Cushion Clear has an altogether different feel than Sticky Clear; it has a soft and grippy matte finish, as opposed to the glossy and sticky features of a Sticky Clear. The grippy, matte finish softens impact and increases control on balance tricks. Best of all – Cushion Clear keeps its superior playability throughout its lifespan, where some Sticky Clear might lose its stickiness over a long period of time.

Ratio Clear



We've been in the Sweets Lab working on a new clear coat formula and we think we've made something special. What we have come up with is a glossy and durable clear that starts out a bit slicker than Sticky Clear or Cushion Clear, but still has just enough grip to slap tricks.

After in-house testing, sending a few variations out to our team, and releasing a few batches for players to try, we are finally ready to add Ratio Clear to our lineup of paint options!

No matter what paint you choose, all paint goes through different cycles as you break it in and play it. These things vary greatly, including how often or hard you play the kendama, but also your local climate, such as how dry or humid your area is, or how hot or cold it generally is. We often find that people in very warm and humid climates experience a much more tacky or grippy kendama right out of the box, whereas players in colder regions might need to break in their kendama a little before experiencing the same amount of grip or tack.

What is a “Natty” Kendama?

“Natty” refers to the way that a kendama is unpainted, or “natural”. A Natty kendama has no paint at all on the ball, so all of the wood is exposed. Playing a natty kendama can be extremely difficult and is a totally different experience than playing a painted kendama. Since there is no paint, there is no added stickiness or grip that assists in the playability, which makes for a very slick and what some would call “icy” feel when doing balance style tricks. This added challenge that is a feature of a Natty kendama is something that some kendama players love, and is very reminiscent of the kendamas that we used to play, years before kendamas had any kind of grippy or sticky paint added to them.

If this is your first kendama, unless you just absolutely love the way it looks, we recommend going towards something painted, either Sticky or Cushion Clear. This doesn’t have to be a kendama with a design painted on, it could even be one of our Splice Series kendamas, which have no design painted on, but do have a top coat of Cushion Clear added for playability.

Natural kendamas take much longer than painted kendamas to break in, so if you’re looking for a kendama that will do anything you want right out of the box, we would recommend opting for something painted over a Natty. If, however, you’re looking for something that will reward you greatly for the time and effort put into it, the challenge of a Natty might just be for you!

I dented my tama/I chipped some paint off, is this normal?

Don’t worry, this is a part of the process! Kendamas are meant to be broken in and played. The more you play a kendama, those small imperfections will make your kendama play even better as you learn.

Think of breaking in a kendama being somewhat similar to breaking in a new pair of shoes. You get them and they feel comfortable, but after wearing them for a bit of time, they start to break in according to the way you walk and the shape of your foot, becoming even more comfortable.

The same is true for kendama. It will feel and play great right out of the box, but as you play it, it starts to break in according to the way you play it. These small nicks, scratches, and bumps that might appear during play are totally normal and shouldn’t affect play in any negative way. Quite the opposite, it will actually make your kendama better and better!

The Three Categories

In order to keep everything neat and easy to digest, we’ve created this table including three different price ranges for each category. If you’re on a budget, use this table to quickly look into the features of each category to see which is best for you. It can also help you understand how these prices work and why there is such a large range of prices and styles to choose from. Note that some kendamas may fall into two categories, depending on whether or not it was Cushion Cleared or not.


All Around - Radar - Sample Image

All-Around (up to $20)

  • BOOST Shape Ken
    • Beech Wood
    • Balance Bevel
  • BOOST Tama
    • Beech Tama
    • Sticky Clear
  • Colored String to Match the Tama
  • Plastic Bead
  • Extra String
  • BOOST Sticker Pack & Instructions
  • Collectable Puzzle Poster
  • Most Affordable Option
Specialty - Sample 1

Specialty ($20 - $50)

  • BOOST Shape Ken
    • Wood Types Vary
    • Balance Bevel*
    • Signature Ken Engravings
  • BOOST Tama
    • Wood Types Vary
    • Sticky Clear or Cushion Clear
  • Metal Spinner Bead
  • SixFinger String
  • Extra String
  • Unique Sticker Pack
  • Extremely Limited Designs
  • Some Designs Designed by The Players**
Premium - Sample

Premium ($50+)

  • BOOST Shape Ken
    • Wood Types Vary
    • Balance Bevel*
    • Custom Ken Designs
    • Wood Laminate**
  • BOOST Tama
    • Wood Types Vary
    • Specialized Tama**
    • Sticky Clear or Cushion Clear
  • Metal Spinner Bead
  • SixFinger String
  • Extra String
  • Unique Sticker Pack
  • Extremely Limited Designs
  • Designed For the Players
*The Joshua Grove Pro Model does not include a Balance Bevel. This was a design choice from Josh himself.
**Applies to certain models. Please see product details for more information.

All Around

This kendama can do it just like any other, but at an extremely accessible price! These All-Around kendamas are made with Beech wood, a common standard for kendama, known for its softness, great break in process, and how well it does with tricks like stalls.

Specialty

Several of our kendamas fall into this category. These kendamas are the next step up if you want to try Cushion Clear or if you want to get a kendama that might last a little longer than a Beech complete. Many of these designs come in small batches because we’re always trying something different and new, so once they sell out, it’s unlikely that they get restocked again. Unless it’s a Pro Model or a Signature Series Model, these kendamas are usually very limited!

Premium

There’s a certain point where a kendama passes the line between being an excellent design and a work of art. We love all of the kendamas we make, but these kendamas are what we consider to be the “top shelf” of what we offer. You’ll find incredible combinations of wood laminate, Optimized Tamas for maximum playability, and even paint that glows in the dark!

Coming in both Sticky Clear and Cushion Clear, along with all of the research and development that goes into creating these kendamas, we try our best with these models to push the boundaries and experiment to create the best kendama ever.

Radar Series

The BOOST Radar is the ultimate kendama in price & playability. Perfect for Pro players, beginners, and everyone in-between. With 6 colors, you only have to decide which one fits your style!

The BOOST is the best playing kendama we have ever released, with its larger cups, more defined stalls, and Balance Bevel, it is made to slap tricks. The BOOST shape has been available in a variety of models for a while, but all came at a higher price-point. We knew we had to offer this revolutionary design at a price that didn't scare away new players, so we came up with the BOOST Radar.

Don't let the price fool you, this kendama still packs a punch. BOOST shape, BOOST tama, sticky paint, new stickers, and extras. This is a kendama everyone should be stoked to play.

Signature Series

The Signature Series is a collection of kendamas that we’ve designed for people who might not be professional kendama players, but do so much in terms of spreading kendama love, we felt that they HAD to have a Mod!

These are people like Boo Johnson - a professional skateboarder... Subtronics - a world-renowned EDM artist, and many others; players who may not be on the Sweets Pro Team, but have shown a deep love and gratitude for kendama. Each player has their own special designed ken and tama, and some have even undergone different iterations over the years, like the different colorways of the Reed Stark Safari Model, for example!

All Signature Series come in the BOOST shape, you can choose Sticky or Cushion Clear, and a portion of every sale goes to that player to support them.  

Sweets Lab Series

The Sweets Lab Series is our way of trying out lots of different styles, themes, and colorways throughout the year. Every release of the Sweets Lab Series comes in threes, each with their own unique design, but all of them share some common theme. In the past, we’ve done shoe inspired designsfictional cars, and even designs made by our community! Just goes to show, you never know what will come next out of our designer’s mind!

We do limited batches of the Sweets Lab Series and rarely revisit designs and hardly ever restock them once they are sold out, so if you see a design you really connect with, snag it! Every kendama comes with our custom Cushion Clear on the BOOST shape, so every Sweets Lab kendama will give you that unique Sweets experience.

Pro Models

Exactly what it sounds like, these are kendamas that have been designed by and for our Professional Players on our team. Each player has a uniquely designed tama, as well as special engravings or symbols on the ken, representing special moments, people, or ideas in their own lives. 

The wood that the kendama is made of can vary between Pro Models, sometimes our players really love the way a certain wood type plays. The Joshua Grove Pro Model, for example, sports beautifully laminated Bamboo vertically through the BOOST shape ken, whereas the Parker Johnson Pro Model pops with a full, bright white Maple BOOST ken. On top of the unique wood choices and designs, we also offer all of our Pro Models in both Sticky Clear and Cushion Clear, covering the bases for those who want a Pro Model for a more accessible price, but also for those who’s gotta have the extra playability that Cushion Clear offers straight out of the box.

If you have a favorite player, getting their pro model even helps them out! A portion of every sale of a Pro Model goes directly to that player to support them.

Legend Models

Much like the emotional sentiment we have for our Signature Series and Pro Models, the Legend Models are near and dear to our hearts. These kendamas have been designed by those who we believe to be a “Legend” in kendama history, having also notched 10 years of playing into their belts. 

These models come with a variety of special features and design aspects. We’re always trying new things with wood and experimenting with certain combinations and styles, and these kendamas are so special and eye-catching, you might find yourself scared to play it out of fear of ruining them! Not to worry though, these are the best playing kendamas we’ve ever created. To top it off, buying one supports the player who designed it! These kendamas can be limited, but we often do our best to keep our most popular designs stocked whenever possible.

As with any of our models created for and by our players, a portion of every sale goes directly to that player to support them.

Splice Series

The Splice Series is much like our Sweets Lab Series in that we get to experiment and test out new designs, but in this case, it’s all about the wood! 

In this new series of the BOOST shape, the Splice Series comes in very limited batches and each version has wildly different combinations of wood that has been laminated together before the turning process. Some iterations, like the Series III, have as many as five different types of wood making up the entire kendama! This makes them extremely playable, but also just so wonderful to look at!

Sumo


Back in the day, before everyone started making kendamas with oversized cups, the only way to get something larger was to use a Biggie. The only problem with a Biggie kendama is that it doesn't have great lunar balance. To fix that, we cut off the spike and moved the cups lower. What you are left with is the Sweets Sumo!

 

 

The Sumo is designed to have amazing lunar balance, fit well in the hand, and have great tracking. This kendama is oversized and is not meant for competition. The Sumo will help you land new tricks, and is a fun break from a standard size kendama.

Kaiju

Kaiju (怪獣 kaijū) is a Japanese word meaning "strange creature" or "strange beast."  In English, it has come to mean "monster" or "giant monster", referring to creatures of a large size seen in Japanese movies and television. These giant monsters are usually attacking major cities and engaging the military and other monsters in battle.

There is a long tradition of making oversized or XXL kendamas for performance and practice. More manageable than the Wrecking Ball that you may have played with at the Sweets Shop, the Kaiju is the perfect size for show and skill.

You will get a workout playing this kendama. Measuring over 12 inches tall and weighing over 2lbs, this is not a kendama for your younger siblings. We definitely recommend that new players build a solid foundation of knowing how to play a normal sized kendama before attempting to slay a Kaiju, but it can be done as long as you’re careful! 

Whether you want to perform in front of a crowd, film a unique edit, or finally work kendama into your CrossFit routine; the Kaiju is the perfect dama for you!

NOTE TO BEGINNERS:

Although certain types of kendamas can be used for certain types of play, it is important to remember that there are no actual rules unless you’re competing in an event. Any person can play any kendama and end up doing something amazing. The best way to find the right kendama and play style is to experiment with different things to see what you like best. You’ll even find that sometimes, preferences can change as you improve as well!


Check out our LEARN page for more videos and details about how to use a kendama!

Also, check out our YouTube Channel for more Tutorials, Unboxings of different models, and all sorts of other fantastic content!